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A Bobblehead Night to Remember

[ 2 ] February 23, 2012 |

Julie and Mike Gatens with a Matt Gatens Bobblehead

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Matt Gatens passed a classmate on Iowa’s career scoring list Thursday. Kind of.

His career-high 33 points in Thursday’s 67-66 victory against No. 16 Wisconsin gives Gatens 1,536 for his career. That puts him in 9th place. He passed Greg Brunner (1,516), Don Nelson (1,522) and Andre Woolridge (1,525).

Nelson, who played at Iowa from 1960 to 1962, went on to win an NBA title as a player and is the league’s all-time winningest coach. Nelson is returning to town this spring to get his diploma at graduation ceremonies. Gatens will be one of those walking with Nelson.

“Pretty cool that he’s doing that,” Gatens said.

Matt’s dad, Mike, booked Nelson and his family several hotel rooms in Iowa City for graduation weekend in May.

Gatens knows about Nelson in Iowa’s record book. He watched Woolridge and Brunner play in the same arena where he put on his head-shaking performance Thursday.

“Andre and Bru are two guys I grew up idolizing,” Gatens said.

After Gatens was lifted onto the shoulders of the students who stormed the court, he gave his grandma, Marylou Gatens, a hug before heading to the locker room. Thursday was the last game she’ll get to see her grandson play in an Iowa uniform. She’s headed to Florida Friday.

Her last game came on Matt Gatens bobblehead night.

“Now, if we can just get a win,” Matt’s dad, Mike, a former Hawkeye player, said before the game.

And then his son went out and put on one of the greatest performances in Carver-Hawkeye Arena history.

Iowa beat No. 18 on Sunday, No. 16 Wisconsin Thursday. It’s the first time Iowa has defeated ranked opponents in back-to-back games since the 2005-06 season (No. 13 Indiana on Jan. 24, No. 16 Ohio State on Jan. 28; and No. 24 Indiana on Feb. 11, and No. 16 Michigan State on Feb. 14).

Before the game, Julie Gatens was trying to get her hands on as many bobbleheads as possible.

“I’m sure she was,” Matt said. “We have a lot of family and relatives that wanted them, and she was working hard.”

Julie wanted one for all the members of the Gatens family tree. One problem. The University of Iowa athletic department couldn’t fill her request because of NCAA rules as it pertains to extra benefits.

So Julie put a mom’s mind to work. She politely asked the Wisconsin fans who arrived early if they wouldn’t mind giving up their bobblehead.Many obliged. And Julie had several of them with her in a plastic grocery sack as she made it to her seat.

Iowa started a tradition of giving out bobbleheads of their seniors last season.  Asked if she thought Matt’s bobblehead looked like Matt, Julie, a former Hawkeye cheerleader, said. “Maybe kind of. A little bit. It’s a neat idea.”

It was a bobblehead night the Gatens family, and Iowa fans, won’t soon forget.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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